Agility is the new competitive edge.
Considering the technological and cultural advancements of the past ten years, we have moved into an era where the unusual becomes the usual and consequently obsolete at an abnormal rate.
This expedition of change has significant suggestions for business – especially for the organizational features and skills that determine who will grow, sustain, or desert. It has drawn about an improved appetite for more prominent agility.
But what is organizational agility and how can we get some?
Organizational agility is the capacity to recognize the developing warnings and possibilities to our mission and to promptly adjust resources to succeed in the new environment. It requires different sequences of vision, leadership, rapid decision- making, and an exceptional customer focus, along with these two critically-important components:
- The ability to see and experience the obvious developments and what they will mean for us.
- The capacity to instantly adapt our resources to leverage growth opportunities and to bypass the emerging threats.
Nearly every business leader we’ve chatted with says they want more agility, but few organizations can develop it. For many, the planning and management methods mastered on the way up the ladder were designed and effective at a different time; a time when change moved at a much slower pace. We need much faster, stronger, better management and execution systems today. To gain agility, leaders must build these four “enablers” into their organizations:
- Fast and efficient information flows… We’d all prefer to be like Wayne Gretzky and solely “skate to where the puck is going to be.” Of course, if we all knew where the fairy was going to be, everyone would be there. But we don’t know. That’s why we need to develop fast and efficient information flows so that when signs emerge about revealing changes within our customers’ organizations or in the marketplace we spot them quickly. To achieve this type of information flow we can begin with modifying how we interact with customers. At each touch-point, it will be required to solicit, capture, and promptly share feedback to be understood, prioritized, and used to improve the work and better align the products and services with customer values and unmet needs. We might also engage in rapid prototyping with select customers so we can learn about what they think, want, and value. Internal communication protocols must also be enhanced by setting powerful mechanisms for quick, effective cross-functional information sharing and more frequent bi-directional interaction with people at all levels of the organization to ensure understanding and arrangement.
- Strong leadership and teamwork… This alliance is a must if we hope to turn insight into action. It will launch with top management creating a culture of trust and amnesty in which people feel free to share their ideas as well as their skill or knowledge gaps. Leaders at all levels must also build a cadence of frequent and capable team communication, both formal and informal. The resulting ideas for development must be prioritized and administered quickly as well because innovations and process developments have a shorter shelf life than ever.
- Streamlined, obvious processes… If the methods that comprise our value stream are held together by patches, expediting, and human vigilance, or are full of inspection, rework, delays, over-specification, repetitions, excess inventory, complexity, etc. we will find it very troublesome to execute the ongoing changes we need. An agile organization must relentlessly streamline, analyze, and error-proof the work. This will require us to teach and collaborate with the people close to the work to identify and eliminate the waste, the barriers, and whatever slows or dilutes the creation of value for the customer. We should aim big and focus processes more closely around customer needs, using speedy prototyping and experimentation, and using the Kaizen approach to problem-solving. Plan-Do-Study-Act faster.